Breathing plays a crucial role in coordinating brain activity in the prefrontal network during wakefulness, scientists claim in a new study published in Scientific Reports. This discovery opens new perspectives for understanding the relationship between breathing and cognitive processes, and may also have important implications for meditative practices that use controlled breathing.
Previous studies have already pointed to the effects of breathing on brain activity and cognitive function. For example, changes in breathing patterns are associated with changes in attention, arousal, and emotional state. The respiratory system also shares common neural pathways and connections to brain regions responsible for cognition.
Researchers at Laval University were interested in the idea that breathing can cause brain networks to continuously switch between synchronized and desynchronized states. Synchronization of neural activity is a key mechanism associated with cognition, especially when it occurs at the gamma frequency in prefrontal areas of the brain.
During wakefulness, most of the changes in neural activity occur because of sensations triggered by our movements. Breathing is one such activity that stimulates a wide range of senses, from mechanical and thermal sensations caused by air passing through the nose, to olfaction, the sensation of chest expansion, chemo sensations from fluctuating CO2 and O2 levels, and even hearing, which can be stimulated by the sound of airflow.
According to recent research, breathing can stimulate neuronal activity in many areas of the brain. This discovery helps to understand fundamental issues related to cognitive experience and the inextricable connection between body and mind.
The study, conducted by scientists from Laval University, was published in the journal Scientific Reports.